24 August 2015
Labor group Partido Manggagawa (PM) joined OFW groups and individuals around the world in denouncing the new policy of Bureau of Customs (BoC) to subject balikbayan boxes to inspection and to impose duties on their assessed values exceeding $500.
“The policy is anti-OFWs on two grounds. First, it begins with the sweeping assumption that OFWs are into technical smuggling. Second, it ends up with a new revenue scheme that can generate some P600 million/year from small articles being sent home by our OFWs,” said PM Chair Renato Magtubo.
Partido Manggagawa is asking the BoC and Malacanang to scrap the twin policy altogether as they smack with a veiled intention of making money out of the small and non-business articles coming from our OFWs.
The BoC came up with the memorandum explaining the new policy based on the findings that balikbayan boxes are being used for technical smuggling. The bureau said some P50 million are lost every month from technical smuggling and one way to address this problem is to subject balikbayan boxes to inspection.
But Magtubo said, “Stricter rules must be imposed against illicit trade, including imported goods that are meant for business and not against compressed articles that contain hard labor and deep love coming from our OFWs.”
He pointed out that this reform is also aimed at the wrong target since smuggled business articles are usually found in 40 ft.-long container vans and not in 4-cubic foot balikbayan boxes.
On the planned imposition of duties against articles exceeding $500 in value, Magtubo said the policy can be used arbitrarily and indiscriminately against OFWs who are unaware of custom’s valuation as well as the procedures on how values are determined on a mix of articles that are compressed inside the balikbayan boxes.
The labor group lamented the fact that OFWs have already been paying $0.05 cents per dollar in their remittances thus the new policy will be an added burden to them.
He also agreed with the view that the new policy may only create new forms of corruption in the most corrupt agency at the expense of hardworking OFWs.